A bird book goes to Africa

[Updated: read Part 2 of this story http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2014/04/15/a-bird-book-goes-to-africa-part-2/]

When Rick Ludkin reached out to us about purchasing a quantity of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania for an upcoming trip he had planned, we dutifully took his order, wished him safe travels as one is supposed to when a person is flying halfway across the world, and scarcely gave it another thought. Well, Rick has returned from what must be, from all accounts, the trip of a lifetime and he is blogging about the experience at his Ruthven Park Nature Blog:

My prime “project” in Matangwe was to teach the students about their birds. I had a couple of reasons for doing this: general appreciation of their wildlife; awareness of the region’s various habitats and how they relate to bird populations; identification skills for their own injoyment but also for possible future work as tourist guides and/or field assistants; use of nets and traps for banding with a view to the possible establishment of a banding program for research into African birds and for the development of an eco-tourism destination (this would be a long-term goal).

Source: Ruthven Park Nature Blog, February 28, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6374

It is thrilling, as a publisher, to see our books being put to such wonderful, educational use in the field. Rick taught several hundred youngsters how to read a field guide, how to use binoculars, and how to set up mist nets to trap and band birds.

The children review the weavers in Zimmerman, et al's    Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania, Photo credit: Rick Ludkin

The children review the weavers in Zimmerman, et al’s
Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania
Photo credit: Rick Ludkin

To illustrate the challenges Rick faced, here is a short excerpt:

Remember: up until this point, birds were primarily thought of as a food source. To highlight this, there are over 30 species of Weavers at least 10 of which occur in their area. But they had just one name for them: Osogos. Not Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver or Yellow-backed Weaver or Spectacled Weaver or Black-headed Weaver….just Osogo. Sort of like beef rather than Angus or Hereford or Holstein or Ayrshire. Once they “got” the concept of species they were away to the races….but that took awhile.

Source: Ruthven Park Nature Blog, February 28, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6374

However, thanks to Rick’s efforts, he soon had hundreds of students assisting him in setting up and banding birds. The initiative was so successful in fact, he writes:

I had close to 300 bands. I figured this would be plenty (and so did Titus Imbomo at the National Museum who supplied me with them). But I ran out by the third week – I could have banded twice as many if I had had more bands. Oh well….next year.

Source: Ruthven Park Nature Blog, February 22, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6342

Hopefully Rick will manage to return next year and he and his students will find our field guide as useful a second time around. In the meantime, you can check out his blogs and photographs of birds he banded while in Africa.

February 21, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6306

February 22, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6342

February 28, 2013: http://www.ruthvenpark.ca/natureblog/?p=6374